Tue, 02 Jun 2020

Former newspaper editor and media freedom activist, Raymond Louw and his wife Jean, were remembered not only for fighting for rights of journalists, but for being basic human rights champions too.

Their joint funeral service was held at the St. Columba Presbyterian Church in Parkview, Johannesburg on Friday.

The two would have celebrated 70 years of marriage this year.

Louw died within 24 hours of the death of his wife, Jean, who did not recover from a fall on June 4.

'Mr Press Freedom' Raymond Louw mourned

Their daughter Fiona Ramsay, who is an actress, thanked those who had come to honour her parents.

"From Derek and I would like to thank you all very much for coming today to honour the lives of Jean and Ray. I didn't call them dad and mom, instead I called them Ray and Jean," she said.

She told mourners that there was no one who guarded her age like her mother. Whenever Jean was asked about her age, she would politely respond "was it really necessary?", Ramsay said, to much laughter from the audience.

She said many didn't know that her father had set up a publication called South African Report which he ran for 28 years.

"Few know this but, Jean worked alongside him tirelessly in the weekly publication doing proof reading, where she took Ray to task on a number of occasions. Jean suggested to Ray that it might be wiser to do a by-monthly newsletter than weekly. He would talk to her with vigour. It was a true family business, my brother Alistair followed Ray into journalism," she said.

When her parents were on holiday, Ramsay would be appointed to "steer the ship".

Both her parents were very supportive of all their children. When Ray was an editor at the Rand Daily Mail, he would obtain tickets of every (theatre) show in town including where she performed, said Ramsay.

"They were friends to us all. There never seemed to be an age gap. They never thought they came from anything but a current generation. They sent flowers and attended all my opening nights... Jean will long be remembered for her diligent and efficient ability to plan and execute delicious elegant dinner parties," she said.

Veteran journalist and academic, Anton Harber said dictators and autocrats were breathing a little easier following Ray's passing.

"The intolerant, the narrow minded, the sacred, the faceless, the hater of freedom, particularly freedom of speech, are watching us today, to rest the man who never left them alone," said Harber.

He described Louw as a man who fought for rights of every journalist, black and white.

In one instance while editor of the Rand Daily Mail, a white photographer refused to work with legendary photographer, Peter Magubane in the publication's dark room. Louw then ensured that Magubane had his own dark room.

Louw had given opportunities to many current veteran black journalists and photographers through his will and efforts to transform newsrooms, Harber said.

"When I entered journalism as recently as 1981, he was already an elder. That's a real veteran ... When we were exhausted, Ray would keep us going. When we wanted to give up, Ray would not let us".

Harber said Louw never gave up on a story no matter what, he would work on the story until it was watertight.

He continued that Louw ensured that the publication covered the 1976 Soweto uprising better than its competitors. He was a hard newsman and found it critical to have independent journalism.

Award winner

Louw won Sanef's Stephen Wrottesley award three times for his tireless commitment to the organisation.

Sanef chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase said: "We will miss his editorial wisdom, his passion for justice and his unstoppable energy. Even in retirement, Raymond continued to contribute immensely to Sanef. He was pained by continued attacks on journalists and attempts to muzzle the media by various actors. He was a wealth of wisdom and always a pillar of strength."

According to SouthAfrica.co.za Louw won numerous awards for his work, including the Pringle Medal for services to journalism by the SA Society of Journalists, the Media Institute of Southern Africa's Media Freedom Award 2005, the Mondi-Shanduka Newspaper Lifetime Achiever Award in 2007 and the International Press Institute award for Press Freedom Campaigning in Vienna, Austria in 2010.

In 2012, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from Rhodes University, and in 2015, received an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from the University of Witwatersrand.

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